King Corn – A Pareto Inefficiency

Every semester at Wheaton I have found direct relationships between the content covered in at least two of my classes, regardless of the widely disparate course disciplines. I suppose that’s the beauty of a liberal arts education – to gain multidimensional perspectives on a range of topics.

While watching King Corn in class, I couldn’t help but to become frustrated about the economic issues related to the overproduction of corn in the USA. The “urbanized” agriculture in the mid-west, fueled by GMO’s and made possible through government subsidies, is a perfect example of a Pareto inefficiency – a concept we’ve explored countless times in Public Finance with Prof. John Miller this semester. I spoke with Prof. Miller after watching the film and discussed how exactly it was possible that the government would intervene on a faulty market that has a seemingly destructive impact on both the environment and the net welfare of American citizens. As with any economic issue related to American politics, the reasons were long-winded and tough to understand. But one simple economic concept can explain why the “urbanization” and mass production of the genetically modified corn in King Corn does not make logistical sense: when supply is greater than demand, there is a surplus, and the market should correct itself by seeking the production of alternative goods. Of course, the government subsidizing corn farmers disrupts this natural reaction that would theoretically occur in a free market.

On an anthropological level, this has particularly complicated consequences for the farmers themselves, as they continue to expand their farm by cultivating more land and by absorbing neighboring farms, redesigning the social interaction of their entire communities. Additionally, they work to “urbanize” their land by incorporating GMO seeds and using modern agricultural technology to expedite the process – any opportunity to increase their yield. The implications of this farming culture are detrimental not only to the farming communities and the food itself; it also hurts the livestock who are fed the corn, as well as the people who eat the food. That said, the King Corn economy is so entrenched in so many American industries that a widespread revolution is required in order to subvert it. And when the largest industries and big business tycoons are involved, progress in political areas is hard to achieve.


What’s the Wi-fi Password? Office Culture.

The principle of cultural relativism is fundamental in anthropology, and is something we have considered throughout the entire semester as we surveyed many anthropological disciplines. It allows us to understand specific cultural ideologies without a biased mindset. This concept is perhaps the most important facet of anthropology I’ve learned in this course, and I have already had plenty of opportunities to engage with it outside of the classroom. My post-grad job search is certainly one experience that comes to mind.

A couple weeks ago, I had my first interview with this startup software company in Boston. The woman I spoke with encouraged me to look at their company blog, to get a better understanding of the work they do and the culture they have within the office. While I got a better understanding of their company culture through engaging with their online content, nothing I could’ve read online compared to what I experienced while visiting their office. I walked into the office and noticed a completely open floor plan, with natural light pouring in from the enormous windows on the far wall. I noticed dogs walking around and greeting employees at knee height as they worked at their standing desks. During my interview I was sitting across from the GM who threw his heels up on the table and as he pet a small black dog on his lap, he asked me “So, why are you awesome?”

The next week, I went back to the office to present on a challenge they sent me over email. When I started setting up my computer to set up the powerpoint I created for my interview, I asked them for their WiFi password. “it’s tantric mist, with a capital T.”

What the hell does that mean? From a culturally relative perspective, I have no clue at, but I know I would be thrilled to engage in some participant observation by working with this company. I think the concept of cultural relativism helps me embrace uncertainty – something that will be incredibly helpful after President Hanno hands me my diploma in the dimple next week. Fingers crossed I can land this gig!

Walmart Shuts Down Creating Food Deserts

I remember in class watching a youtube clip about Michelle Obama’s food desert program, along with a clip interviewing people about how it felt like living near a food desert, and I thought to myself how generous it was for her to start this program, especially with the health of the future generation in mind.

And now some Walmart stores are shut down causing the situation of food deserts to worsen. The government should have a policy regarding leftover food in the supermarkets or in stores, instead of throwing perfectly fine produce, they should give them to families in desperate need, like single parent families or think of alternative ways to use this perfectly fine leftover food, like distributing them to soup kitchens.

How would you propose the government should do with the perfectly fine leftover food from restaurants and supermarkets?



Refreshing Food Deserts

Everyone deserves to have fresh food available and reasonably accessible to them! It is necessary in this day and age with all of the technology and resources we have to distribute food that fresh food accessible to everyone.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food desert’s “as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” We have too much fresh food in the world that goes to waste everyday when there are people suffering from obesity and malnourishment because they do not have access to such healthy and fresh food. There has been many different efforts especially recently to try and fix this problem by building and opening up new supermarkets with fresh produce in these food deserts. When first hearing about this I thought it was such a great idea and was proud that there are people out there who are actually doing something to make a change in these inner city and poor rural areas. I still believe that this is a great idea and it is helping but have now come to realize that there is more to it.

Even if we build one supermarket with fresh produce in the center of every food desert in the country, there will still be people who will not go because it is still to inconvenient for them. If there is a store 10 miles away that has fresh produce but their is a small market around the 2 miles away that has the necessities but no fresh produce, then most people would still go to the with no fresh produce because it is closer to them and more convenient. What needs to happen is for these small markets to gain access to selling this fresh produce so that people don’t have to change their whole lifestyle but can still get the nutritious filled fresh food they need.


I’ll Sleep When It’s Done.

The average schedule of a student is filled with many activities both school related and not, one after another. In todays society students are often trading in sleep for homework, extracurriculars, and jobs. With high schools starting as early as 7:15, and going for a full day  of school then followed by after by activities such as band, sports, community service or jobs, then having to return home and do serval homework for multiple classes there are many late nights. Students today should not have to sacrifice their own health to be seen as a successful student. Society has certain view of what a successful or hardworking student is, but the perfect image is only achievable with sacrificing friends, mental health and sleep.  It is apparent that the importance of school is more so placed on grades, and less on the well being of the students and education its self. A “good” student will stay up through the night for a hard test memorizing everything they can and continue the rest of their day on few hours of sleep for a grade. A student who wants to care but feels to overwhelmed might fail a test and will be treated like this test grade number defines them. A desperate student will cheat on a test,proving that they had been taught to value the grade number more than learning. Students are overworked and the importance of certain aspects of school and student life in general are not evenly weighed.

What Happened to Chipotle?

We have all heard of the recent epidemics of people getting sick across he US after eating at various Chipotle Restaurants. Chipotle is known for being apart of and promoting buying local fresh ingredients, and make their food 100% GMO free. Todays culture has a very unique view on GMO’s. The general public’s opinion is very split between them being something to not think about, or a big concern. Many people have chosen to eat at Chipotle over other places since they hold their foods to such standards. But, since the recent outbreaks Chipotle sales have reduced and some locations have been shut down. Working at Chipotle myself the location has lost half its sales and has had half as many customers since the reports of their food causing sickness began. Customers have asked me “is the food safe here? has there been any scares here?”. To which the response being no. It is interesting to see how the public reacted to the situation, and if that change some of the publics view to think of non GMO food negatively as whole. Chipotle’s goal is to provide fast food that is both healthy and fresh, being better quality than other fast food places such as McDonalds or Wendys. As we discussed in class, many fast food places buy from larger commercial farms. So it is just one place trying to make a change and offer the public a different option of what our culture would view as “healthier, fresh and humane”.

Automated Sushi Disposal System

Sushi was a preservative food to make good use of food and now it is all about the freshness. Sushis are consumed all around the world using fresh raw seafood, even though it is a great food culture it is a cause for mass food disposal due to the difficulty in quality control. The origin of sushi was a fermented food made from steamed rice and crucian carp and it was one of the best preservative foods in the past.

The reality of mass food disposal was in low cost conveyor belt sushi restaurant. They put two pieces of sushi on a plate and puts it on a conveyor belt so that customers could see it and choose their sushi. These kind of restaurant gain dominant popularity among Japanese people for its high entertainment properties and cheap prices. However to sustain the freshness of the sushi some restaurants created automated sushi disposal system. The system allows the bar code on the back of the plate to automatically distinguish sushi that went around the conveyor belt for 55 minutes and disposed it.

It is important to eat fresh food not only because they taste good but to consider about health, however people these days are extremely sensitive to the expiration date of an food. People should use the expiration date as an rough guide and not as an certainty.